Spring is officially here. Can’t wait for a weekend adventure out in nature? Thanks to high-speed rail, some of China’s most beautiful mountains are now reachable in less than three hours from Shanghai. From underrated UNESCO bioreserve Wuyishan to overcrowded but absolutely stunning Yellow Mountains, here’s your go-to guide to the best weekend hiking trips.
Photograph: Shawn Luo
Combine the karst cliffs and winding rivers of Guilin with the majestic cloud-covered peaks of Huangshan, and you have Wuyishan. This criminally underrated UNESCO bioreserve, only 2 hours away from Shanghai by train, should be your top choice for an adventurous weekend getaway.
Located in the northwest corner of Fujian province, Wuyishan has a variety of hiking trails of varying difficulty. Highlights include the Jade Girl Peak, a towering karst cliff out of the movie Avatar, and the Water Curtain Cave, a massive waterfall with temples carved into the surrounding overhangs. Wuyishan’s crowning jewel and best viewpoint is Tianyou Peak (but beware, there are quite a few steps to get to the top of it).
You can see just about all of the national park in two days for an entrance fee of 140RMB plus the 75RMB shuttle bus, which we recommend purchasing. If you’re just looking for some light hiking, skip the steep climb to the top of Tianyou and take a DiDi out to the nearby Xiamei ancient town. This Qing Dynasty town and its surrounding tea fields are a friendly and quiet alternative to Shanghai’s more touristy water towns. Yes, we are talking about Zhujiajiao and Qibao.
How to get there Take the 6.35pm train from Hongqiao Railway Friday night to Wuyi North station. The journey takes two hours. Then hop in a DiDi for another 15-20 minutes to the city centre.
Photograph: Ashwin Phillips
Huangshan, also known as the Yellow Mountains, might be the most popular destination (and the most crowded) on this list. Despite the crowds, this UNESCO World Heritage Site located in southern Anhui province is without a doubt worth seeing. Famous for its oddly shaped peaks surrounded by seas of clouds, Huangshan is breathtaking in any season, but springtime is especially lovely with blooming flowers and relatively fewer visitors.
As with many Chinese mountains, be prepared to walk up many stairs. If stairs aren’t your thing, consider taking the cable car up or down one way for 105RMB. Also, be warned that the food options in the mountain area are few and far between. We recommend loading up on snacks for the journey.
After a full day of hiking on Saturday, consider checking out the hot springs located down the road from the Southern gate. Or venture further out to the nearby ancient city of Hongcun. Though not as quaint as Wuyishan’s Xiamei, Hongcun’s massive moat and Hui style architecture are worth taking half a day to explore.
How to get there Take the 7.05pm train from Hongqiao Railway Friday night to Huangshan North station. The journey takes just under three hours. Then hop in a DiDi for another 20-30 minutes to Huangshan city to spend the night before starting your hike.
Photograph: courtesy Wikimedia Commons
If you’re looking for the natural beauty of Huangshan without the ‘people mountain people sea’, look no further. Sanqingshan, one of the most sacred mountains of Taoism, looks an awful lot like the Yellow Mountains but draws in far fewer tourists.
The park, located in the northeast corner of Jiangxi, comprises three summits representing its namesake, the Taoist trinity. Adventurous hikers will love the challenging seven-hour hike to the top, while those looking for something a bit less intense can opt to take the cable car up and spend the day exploring the granite cliffs. The most beautiful area is the Nanqing Scenic Spot, which houses the mountain’s oddly shaped peaks and trees.
If you opt to climb up, consider climbing up Saturday and staying the night at one of the guest houses at the top of the mountain. You can also bring or rent camping gear at various spots on or near the mountain. Entry into the park costs 150RMB, and you can either climb up or take a cable car for 70RMB one way.
How to get there Take the 6.41pm train from Hongqiao Railway Friday night to Shangrao station. The journey takes just under three hours. Stay the night in Shangrao or closer to the mountain, then take a DiDi another hour to get to the scenic area.
Hiking on Wugongshan can be challenging for beginners. It requires an overnight train journey over 1,000km away from Shanghai all the way to the southwest corner of Jiangxi province. But, for the most daring hikers, it’s all worth it for the breathtaking views at the top of this peak. From the top, you can gaze down upon the mountain range unfolding around you on all sides. Expect to spend four to six hours climbing to the top.
You can opt to take the cable car down that day, but we recommend roughing it a night on top of the peak in one of the hotels. Keep in mind these hotels are more metal sheds with beds than a comfortable inn.
How to get there Take the 7.35pm overnight train from Shanghai South Railway Friday night and arrive at Pingxiang station the following day at 8.19am. Then take a DiDi another hour to get to the scenic area.